How to Find Your Dream College Dance Program When You Can't Visit Campus

November 26, 2020

Some students know the moment they set foot on campus—they envision themselves spending four years sprawled out on the lawn studying for exams, training in the studio and grabbing coffee at the student union. But dancers who are college hunting this year might not get to experience that defining moment. Thanks to COVID-19, many universities have suspended in-person tours and auditions. Prospective students might not feel comfortable hopping on a plane to visit a school across the country. So how do you pick a college with confidence when you’ve never seen it in person?

Make the Most of It

Research. Research. Research. “First and foremost, read the website from top to bottom,” says Seán Curran, chair of the Tisch School of the Arts department of dance at New York University. Look up the faculty members, the curriculum, the repertoire, alumni, majors offered and anything else you’re curious about.

2. Use the interview. Curran always says that the interview isn’t just about making sure the dancer is a good fit for the program; it’s also a tool for the dancer to find out if the program is a good fit for them. This is the time for you to get a feel for the faculty and ask any lingering questions.

3. Don’t skip the information sessions. As tired as you may be of Zoom meetings, attending these can help you identify deal breakers early on.

4. Connect with students or alumni. To get a sense of the social scene and student life, talk to those who’ve lived it. Do you want to attend a university that has Greek life and football games? Would you be content with a college that is mostly commuter students?

At the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, applicants are encouraged to reach out to one of the student ambassadors, and freshmen are paired with an upperclassman peer mentor, says Anne Aubert-Santelli, assistant dean of admission and student services. If the college doesn’t have an official program, ask the dance department for a connection or search social media to find someone who’s attended.

5. Don’t be afraid to set up a one-on-one call. If you still have questions, reach out to one of the dance faculty or an admissions department representative to have a conversation.

6. Place facts over fantasy. It’s hard not to fantasize about your dream college. When Curran first committed to NYU as a student himself, he had grand visions of the 1980 movie Fame. “I thought that’s what it was going to be like,” he says. “Dancing on the tables in the cafeteria, spilling out onto Second Avenue and stopping traffic with dance numbers, people playing music in the hallways.” Of course, the reality was a little less impromptu street performances and more kinesthetics of anatomy classes. Lean on your extensive research to fuel your decision, not the fantasy scenario you’ve created in your head.

What’s Going Digital

With restricted visitor access on campus, prospective students will have to rely on virtual tours to get a glimpse of the space.

Thanks to travel restrictions and exposure concerns, many schools are asking dancers to submit video auditions.

Information sessions.
Open houses where students can mingle with faculty and learn about the program are being replaced by virtual sessions that allow them to attend panels and possibly take a master class online.

Adjust Expectations

This year, dancers will need to make peace with the fact that they might not experience a “lightbulb moment” during their virtual college search, says Seán Curran, chair of the department of dance at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. “I still think instinct, intuition, impulse will be important. It just may not be that kind of clear-as-a-bell feeling.”